It is kind of strange to use the term fall camp. When you think of the fall, you imagine a brisk wind out of the north, yellow and orange leaves and 5 p.m. sunsets.
In Louisiana, there is no such thing as fall camp. It is very much summer camp, or August camp if you like.
The temperatures were still soaring into the mid to upper 90s when the LSU football team kicked off its fourth fall camp under head coach Nick Saban last week. With 105 players reporting, kickoff is less than three weeks away as the Louisiana-Monroe Indians visit Tiger Stadium on Aug. 30.
The dawn of another football season means the annual Tiger Rag Football Preview has hit the streets. Hopefully, you have secured your copy of this season's preview, which we feel is the best in the 26-year history of the Rag.
With the preview on the racks and our annual Tiger Rag Fall Incentive gifts being mailed as we speak, I had the opportunity for a little R&R last week. The sweltering heat and humidity of a typical south Louisiana summer keeps most people running for the AC, so I went for the alternative: northern California.
I was only there a few days but what a trip. Temperatures were in the mid 70s while a cool breeze blew constantly from the Pacific. I got to see most of the sights: the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, PacBell Park and the Carmel Peninsula were all stops along the way. Mixed with the weather, the view and a stroll down Hole No. 18 at Pebble Beach, I seldom thought: "Why would I want to go back?"
When the plane landed on Friday and the thermometer read 103-degrees, an immediate sickness came to my stomach when I realized vacation was over.
However, that empty feeling was quickly filled with excitement as I had the opportunity to catch Saturday's practice at the Charles McClendon Practice Center.
The sting has not fully subsided from last year's season ending collapse, including a 35-20 loss to (uugghh!!) Texas of all teams.
But last year's 2-4 stretch run finish became a distant memory when I had the opportunity to check out the 2003 version of Nick Saban's Tigers. This is not a prediction and I dare not make a prognostication, but this team has all the makings of a very good, very talented SEC football team.
On Media Day, Saban spoke at length about his team's top-notch conditioning and credited the players and strength coach Tommy Moffitt for a summer filled with hard work and dedication. Saban could not be closer to the truth with his assessment.
Read my lips – the LSU football team is in as good of physical condition as I have ever seen. I understand my youth has not allowed me to see that many Tiger football squads, but just take my word on this.
The players are bigger and appear stronger than ever, looking like a team filled with body builders. Moffitt's strict workout regiment has left many an onlooker not being able to tell the difference between Adrian Mayes and Randall Gay.
Since returning from vacation, I have already had the opportunity to speak with several folks in the community at various restaurants around the Baton Rouge area. The question on most people's minds is still the status of the LSU quarterbacks. While the coaching staff has said time and again Mauck is okay to play, people are still a bit concerned.
Mauck is fine and from this onlooker's point of view, is head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks on the team. All right, I am not saying the others are not good, but Mauck is just more polished the rest.
Now for the second question, what about the freshman quarterbacks?
JaMarcus Russell is the man-child everyone talked about and at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, he appears to be bigger than most linebackers on the team. His arm is accurate and provides plenty of zip for the purists, but his footwork still needs some work.
As big and athletic as Russell was as a prepster, he was able to overpower high school opponents. However, Russell's weaknesses as a polished drop-back passer are coming out. He evens talks about this in a Q&A session I had with him on media day the you'll be able to read later this week.
Flynn does not possess Russell's strong arm but his mobility is outstanding. He has an above average arm and gets the ball where it needs to go, but not with quite as much heat on it. If you want a comparison, think a Josh Heupel/Eric Crouch mix.
But as much buzz as there is around the incoming quarterback class, let me tell you about the LSU wide receivers.
As physically imposing and polished as receiver Michael Clayton looks in an LSU uniform, wait until you see the trio of Craig Davis, Amp Hill and most especially Dwayne Bowe.
Davis is a bit thin for a 6-3 receiver, and Hill is a Clayton clone. Bowe may not be as smooth as Hill or Davis (who has a pulled hamstring), but his size and speed is tremendous. Think Antonio Bryant or a smaller Kellen Winslow. Add a couple more pounds and he could be a tight end.
We hope you've enjoyed our detailed reports of the first week of fall camp and media day. And don't forget to check out TigerRag.com for daily practice reports and player features all the way up the opening kickoff against ULM.
It should be an exciting month!